We’re all feeling the impact of climate change. Consumers are responding. A 2023 report for the U.S. food and grocery industry by Glow, a research firm, stated that nine out of 10 consumers believe businesses should act in a socially and environmentally responsible way.
Sustainability for a business typically consists of three components:
- Environmental refers to reducing your business’s carbon emissions.
- Social includes your company’s example and interactions within the community.
- Economic is the ability to profit within your environmental and social responsibilities.
Ecommerce has an outsized impact on sustainability owing to unique supply chain, packaging, and delivery needs.
Product sourcing and manufacturing
For ecommerce companies, the supply chain’s carbon footprint likely offers the biggest opportunity for improvement. It includes raw material sourcing, assembly, and transportation of inventory and components.
Questions for suppliers include choices of materials, use of renewable energy, and safe working conditions for employees.
We’ve addressed sources of sustainable packaging. It’s easy enough to assess the options. Is the material recycled and recyclable? Is it entirely biodegradable?
State on your marketing material that the packaging is recyclable or biodegradable. That will appeal to like-mind consumers and establish your company’s sustainability bonafides.
Many carriers are adopting eco-friendly options, such as bike couriers in urban areas, “click and collect” delivery hubs, and renewable-energy-powered vehicles. Amazon, for example, deploys truck-like e-bikes for delivery in London, U.K.
Some businesses purchase carbon offset credits to counter the impact of shipping, adopting the term “carbon-neutral delivery.”
Partnering with an environmental cause
Patagonia is a top example of a sustainability-driven brand. But similar efforts are not feasible for most businesses. An alternative is supporting environmental nonprofit organizations. You could donate a percentage of profits or even involve your staff to volunteer.
“Greenwashing” is the practice of making false environmental claims. For example, stating “Our product is good for the environment” when it isn’t can anger consumers and lead to negative press coverage for your company. This has occurred for some apparel brands.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission published a non-binding “Green Guide” for advertising environmental benefits. Still, there’s no U.S. law prohibiting false claims. A proposal from the European Commission, if adopted, would allow legal action for greenwashing, including fines, penalties, or the suspension of business.